Dictionary unravels va-va-voom enigma

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The Independent Online

The French footballer Thierry Henry's search for the meaning of the unusual phrase "va-va-voom" is over. In one of more than 2,000 new inclusions in the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, published today, the official definition of Henry's favourite word is "the quality of being exciting, vigorous, or sexually attractive".

The French footballer Thierry Henry's search for the meaning of the unusual phrase "va-va-voom" is over. In one of more than 2,000 new inclusions in the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, published today, the official definition of Henry's favourite word is "the quality of being exciting, vigorous, or sexually attractive".

Va-va-voom first appeared in the lyrics of a 1950s song and is used in an advertisement for Renault cars featuring the Arsenal and France star. Its inclusion in the new dictionary proves the power of the media over language.

"If a television host wanted to popularise a particular word, they could probably do it," said Judy Pearsall, the publishing manager of English dictionaries at Oxford University Press. Charles Jones, professor of English language at Edinburgh University, said: "These adverts are of short-term duration. In three or four years' time, if you asked someone, 'va-va-voom - where does that come from?' they probably wouldn't recognise it. But the inclusion of these words sells dictionaries."

The selection process for the new words began with 100 readers in English-speaking countries and used a points system based on the length of time and how widely a word has been used.

The war in Iraq provided new entries including "embed", a journalist who is attached to a military unit during a conflict. Other new additions include "pole dancing", "speed dating" and "metrosexual".

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